Wednesday, April 29, 2015

5. Dunston Checks In

The movie: Dunston Checks In (Ken Kwapis, 1996)

Have I seen this movie before? No.

How I saw it: So I put this movie at the top of my Netflix queue before returning the previous DVD. As per usual, Netflix sent me an email that it had received the previous disc, and then another email announcing that it was sending me the second movie in my queue, bypassing Dunston Checks In. It was as if some higher power was trying to send me a message, and that message was: “Don’t do this.” 

Netflix eventually explained that the local shipping center didn’t have the movie in stock, which is shocking, considering how many Congressmen cite Dunston Checks In as their favorite movie. They got it to me a couple of days later. No human being has worked harder to see this movie than I have.

The recommender: Steve Isaac

The rationale: John has been methodically working through his Queueueue. John is a good writer, and a friend. I wanted to make him watch a movie about a monkey in a hotel. A movie that is widely regarded as absolute garbage. I want to make John have to spend time thinking about this movie. I want him to think long and hard about Dunston; about Dunston checking in. Some people just want to watch the world burn. Never in my life have I heard a more accurate description of Steve Isaac's personal brand.

My familiarity with this movie: I know that this movie features a monkey in a hotel. I know that it is widely regarded as absolute garbage. In short, I am Steve Harvey, and Steve Isaac is everyone behind Steve Harvey:


Plot summary and trailer yoinked from Netflix and YouTube, respectively: "Hotel manager Robert Grant (Jason Alexander) is forced by his boss (Faye Dunaway) to postpone his family vacation when a hotel critic checks in. Trouble is, the critic is really a villainous jewel thief (Rupert Everett) with an orangutan assistant named Dunston. When Dunston gets loose and tries to escape a life of crime -- aided by Robert's sons -- havoc, hijinks, and lots of laughs abound!" Dear God.




What I thought of the movie: I just don't even know where to begin with this shit.

Well first, let me set the scene: Steve and I watched this movie in my basement. We're entertaining a guest at our house this week, so the basement futon is in its down, sleeping position, and so... OK what I'm trying to say is that Steve and I laid on the futon together and watched Dunston Checks In. As you do.

It's worth noting that this movie has quite the cast for something so blatantly garbage: Jason Alexander (at the height of his Seinfeld fame), Academy Award winner Faye Dunaway, Rupert Everett, Paul "Pee Wee Herman" Reubens, and the kid from The Santa Clause. That's not half bad for the mid-'90s! As we watched the first scene of the movie, which features a puppy flying into the arms of an overweight woman, comically propelling them both into a hotel lobby's fountain, I wondered what each of these actors was really hoping to gain by appearing in the movie. Here is an artist's rendering of my best guess.

Of course, none of those actors are the star of the film. The star is Dunston the monkey, who is responsible all of the aforementioned havoc and hijinks. (I was less able to find any evidence of "laughs.") I'm not going to sit here and try to describe the plot of this movie to you. I am going to present to you an incomplete list of things that Dunston the monkey does in the movie. I hope that will suffice.

  • Dunston the monkey arrives at the hotel in the suitcase of Rupert Everett, the jewel thief. (Rupert Everett has had a long and distinguished career in cinema. He's starred in film adaptations of the plays of Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde, and he's earned two Golden Globe nominations. In every single scene of this movie, he is pulling a doofy, ridiculous face, like this one:
  • Dunston the monkey smokes a cigarette and then spits it into Rupert Everett's face.
  • Dunston the monkey blows raspberries at Rupert Everett and sticks his tongue out at him.
  • Dunston the monkey wears an ice bucket on his head like a hat.
  • Dunston the monkey watches Planet of the Apes on TV.
  • Dunston the monkey looks wistfully at a picture of himself with his brother, Samson. It is revealed that Rupert Everett was once some sort of circus performer (?) and owned both monkeys, but then killed Samson (!) because he wasn't obedient enough. (We learn this because Rupert Everett talks to the monkey as if it is a human being.)
  • Dunston the monkey performs a jewel heist. He puts on clothes and a miner's helmet (!?), and shimmies up the drainpipe of the hotel into an old lady's room. Here are some things that Dunston the monkey does in the old lady's room:
    • Dunston the monkey finds the old lady's dentures in a glass of water, and then he drinks the water.
    • Dunston the monkey finds several bottles of the old lady's perfume, and then he drinks the perfume.
    • Dunston the monkey tries on all the old lady's hats and looks at himself in the mirror, and then he puts a pair of the old lady's underwear on his head and makes a kissy face.
    • Dunston the monkey then takes a phone call (!) from Rupert Everett, receives some instructions (!!), opens the old lady's jewel case, and carefully extracts all the jewels. He then escapes from the room.
  • Dunston the monkey happens upon Kyle, the younger of Jason Alexander's sons, and kisses him on the mouth. Fresh!
  • Dunston the monkey, clearly fed up with the life of a doofy jewel thief's assistant, decides that enough is enough. He escapes through the air vents into the hotel and eventually makes his way to the apartment in which Jason Alexander and his two sons live. (Steve noted that this hotel has hilariously large air vents, all of which are conveniently big enough to be traversed by a monkey.)
  • Dunston the monkey climbs into bed with Jason Alexander, who spoons him. (I should note that Jason Alexander is v drowsy when this all happens. He does not consciously realize that he is spooning with a monkey.)
  • Dunston the monkey gets loose in the hotel's gym. He steals a man's glasses and then massages an old lady's back and derrière. (This is the same old lady from whom he's stolen the jewels. Dunston the monkey does not appear to put this together.)
  • Dunston the monkey assists Jason Alexander's two sons in discovering the fact that Rupert Everett is not, as everyone else believes, a hotel critic. (Worth noting: Jason Alexander's older son has a completely different accent than his brother and father have. It sounds like he's doing a bad impression of Edward G. Robinson.)
  • Dunston the monkey, hiding from Rupert Everett, is checked into his own hotel room by the two boys. Here are some things that Dunston the monkey does in his own hotel room:
    • Dunston the monkey plays Frisbee with the two boys.
    • Dunston the monkey takes a bubble bath.
    • Dunston the monkey swings from a chandelier. (From a chandelieeerrrr!)
  • OK I know this is just supposed to be a list of things that Dunston the monkey does, but I would be remiss if I did not mention this one other thing: Rupert Everett cannot find Dunston the monkey, but he has a feeling that Dunston the monkey is probably being hidden in one of the hotel's rooms. So he opens the hotel's rudimentary website on his 1996-era laptop, clicks on a page called "Room Service," and does a keyword search for "bananas," which leads him to a page that shows him exactly which rooms have ordered bananas from room service. I want you to read that again. First of all, that he would even think to do something like this is insane. Second of all, that this plan actually works is twice as insane. And third of all, that he is even able to do something like this is ten times as insane. He's searching people's ROOM SERVICE ORDERS on the hotel's website! How is this possible? How is this legal? I have made some outrageous room service orders in my day, and I shudder to think that some third party would be able to access them ON THE HOTEL'S WEBSITE. It is easily the craziest thing that happens in the movie, and lest we forget, this is a movie about a monkey running loose in a hotel.
  • Finally, Dunston the monkey finally helps Jason Alexander and the boys thwart the evil Rupert Everett and stick it to the mean hotel owner, Academy Award winner Faye Dunaway, during a fancy party. He ultimately does this by jumping from (yet another) chandelier on top of Academy Award winner Faye Dunaway, pushing her into an enormous pink cake.
You know how they say that watching a really bad movie is like watching a trainwreck? Dunston Checks In is eighty-eight minutes of trainwrecks, one after another after another. After a certain point, I stopped writing down what all the trainwrecks were. There were too many of them. With every passing minute, more and more trains kept crashing into each other until the point where I realized that I was no longer able to discern what a train was.

I know this is a movie for kids, and I know that monkeys are often cute and hilarious, and I know this is not a movie that is meant to adhere to logic and reason. But it's just so dumb. I swear to God, it's just so, so, so dumb. And the dumbest thing of all is the fact that I've just spent an hour and a half of my life laying on a futon with some other idiot watching it.

Am I happy I took Steve’s recommendation? I wish I was dead.

What's next?

UPDATE: Here comes the illustrious Micah "Ol' Double Dutch" Lubens, leaping into the fray with the obscure Danish film Jauja.

Monday, April 20, 2015

4. Dead Again

The movie: Dead Again (Kenneth Branagh, 1991)

Have I seen this movie before? No.

How I saw it: DVD, via Netflix.

The recommender: Buddy Wright

The rationale: I saw this movie in college, and fell in love with it. I love Ken Branagh and Emma Thompson, and the cameo by Robin Williams is perfect. Derek Jacobi and Andy Garcia round out an awesome cast. On first viewing, I never saw the plot twist coming, and I still think it's one of the best out there. It's one of my favorites, and I'm anxious for the movie to get the Krizel Treatment. Thank you for using the term “the Krizel treatment” in a positive context.

My familiarity with this movie: I am not very familiar with this movie, other than knowing enough about it to be able to potentially answer a trivia question about it (that is, I know some of the stuff that Buddy touched on in his rationale: who’s in it, there’s a twist, it’s noir-ish). I also know it’s the movie that Branagh made after setting the world on fire with his first film, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henry V that I happen to think is dope.

Branagh is an interesting dude. I think people automatically think Shakespeare when they think of him, which is fair, in that he’s made several films of Shakespeare plays. But he has quite a bit of experience doing other things, having also directed such cinematic classics as Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and the Cinderella movie that came out last month. Did you know he directed that? I had no idea, presumably because every time a commercial for it came on TV, I instantly fell asleep. Hopefully this one will be more engaging.

Plot summary and trailer yoinked from Netflix and YouTube, respectively: Los Angeles gumshoe Mike Church takes the case of a woman beset with amnesia and soon makes the startling discovery that he and his client are connected to a lurid 40-year-old murder.”




What I thought of the movie: This is one of those v compelling movies where NOTHING IS AS IT SEEMS. I was quite into it, often feeling (the good kind of) uncomfortable and occasionally yelling at the screen for characters to watch out and be careful and such. It is a wonder that anyone has ever watched a movie with me.

I don’t want to reveal too much about it, because the drama lies in the mystery of which characters are not as they seem. Branagh and his then-wife Emma Thompson play dual roles: a 1940s composer and his wife, and a present-day private detective and his… ward, kind of. Branagh, the director, has all kinds of tricks up his sleeves, successfully building the tension with each scene as we cut back and forth between the past and present. He exhibits a terrific command of tone and mood, allowing us to fully enjoy the noir-ish, black-and-white scenes set in the past alongside those set in the present. (Note: this is a very early-’90s movie. The cell phones are big, the beepers exist, and the clothes are just something else. Great days.) 

Not everything in the movie worked for me, but the things that didn’t were all minor. One scene involved Branagh acting a little crazy. Some loose plot ends aren’t tied up as neatly as some might like, and there is one moment at the very end of the movie that didn’t quite have the intended effect (PM me for deets). But on the whole I was very taken with the movie, a movie which I think has gone overlooked for a lot of people of my generation. It’s a good thing that this blog exists so that its ten to twelve readers can now rectify that oversight. 

Am I happy I took Buddy’s recommendation? The Jeopardy! crew continues to come through. A smart bunch, those guys.

What’s next?

UPDATE: It was only a matter of time until Steve Isaac chimed in with some ridiculous nonsense, and here he is. Dunston Checks In, a film that, if I'm not mistaken, is about an orangutan running wild in a hotel. My God.

Friday, April 10, 2015

3. Interstellar

The movie: Interstellar (Christopher Nolan, 2014)

Have I seen this movie before? Yes.

How I saw it (this time): DVD, via Netflix.

The recommender: Kristin Sausville

The rationale: I chose Interstellar because it addresses so many aspects of humanity – from our scientific endeavors (and times when society turns away from them) to our relationships with our family and friends to each person's struggle to persevere in the face of tremendous obstacles.

My familiarity with this movie: I had very high expectations for this movie (I'm a fan of Christopher Nolan, the trailer was awesome, the McConaissance, etc). My expectations were slightly tempered by my irrational dislike of Anne Hathaway, a dislike that I really wish so many people didn’t share, because now it feels like I’m piling on. This is a hot-button issue and I don’t want to get too crazy about it, and besides, she seems like a perfectly nice person. So I'm going to change my tune. 2015: Be Nicer to Anne Hathaway.



Oh no. Oh God. I can’t do it. Forget it. 2015: Anne Hathaway Is Still Trash.

Anyway. I saw this movie in theaters when it came out and I liked it a lot. I thought it was incredible to look at, huge and long and occasionally confusing. But above all it aspired to greatness, and I like movies that do that.

Pre-movie state of mind: Excited! When I left the theater after seeing it, I felt like it demanded multiple viewings to fully take in. Luckily, Kristin is here to save the day.

Plot summary and trailer yoinked from Netflix and YouTube, respectively: “From director Christopher Nolan comes this futuristic cosmic odyssey, which follows a band of space explorers who surmount the limits of interstellar travel, using a recently discovered wormhole to pass between dimensions.”



SPOILER ALERT from here on in.

What I thought of the movie: I liked it again! More than I did the first time. I definitely gained a fuller appreciation of all the good aspects of the movie (as well as all the ridiculous ones). Turns out that seeing a nearly three-hour-long movie (especially one with this much wild science) for a second time is helpful!

The movie takes a little while to get going, as most movies do. Nolan’s movies are rightly praised for many things, but the writing is not usually one of them. The first half hour or so of the movie features some cringeworthy dialogue, some of it overly expository (which makes sense, since we’re in a weird agriculture-based semi-apocalyptic future), some of it just plain clunky. The first line in the trailer – “We used to look up in the sky and wonder at our place in the stars. Now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt” – is a really epic way to start a movie trailer, but in the movie, it’s delivered by McConaughey in a casual conversation with his father-in-law (John Lithgow) sitting outside the house. Like, take it easy, Nolan. Put the highlighter down.

(The Earth scenes made me think about how I would fare in this agricultural future. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say “poorly.” I've never farmed. I suppose I could still be a teacher, since we do meet a teacher early in the film. But all that teacher does is clunkily reveal that the future’s textbooks say that we faked the Moon landing, something McConaughey acts shocked to learn, even though there’s no way in hell that his daughter wouldn’t have told him about that the day they covered it in school, but whatever. The fact remains that I would do poorly in any future where resource allocation is very closely monitored. The depth and breadth of resources that I consume on a daily basis is staggering.)

Other things that bugged me more this time around: obviously the father-daughter relationship is the key one in the movie, but, as noted here, the father-son relationship is not really a thing at all. The character of the son really only exists to create a conflict for Jessica Chastain’s character at the climax (which didn’t really work for me either time I saw it), so it was funny how they kind of “yeah yeah”-ed him at the beginning. “Everyone is v sad that McConaughey is leaving! His daughter is mad at him and crying her eyes out, and his son… oh yeah, that kid. Eh, he’ll be fine.”

(Incidentally, if you’re looking for a futuristic movie that explores a father-son relationship in greater depth, look no further than Real Steel, the Hugh Jackman robot boxing film. I saw that movie in the theater by myself and I cried. The father-son stuff is beautiful, as are the boxing robots.)

A lot of people have written about the supposed plot holes in this movie, and I'm going to try not to, because I usually struggle to understand the science in movies like this, and then I feel dumb when it all has to be explained to me:

ME: Wait, why did Anne Hathaway try to get the flight recorder thing on the water planet if the woman who had landed there originally was gone?
SOME NERD: Well actually when you consider the effects of the gravity
ME: Never mind.

So I'm sure there are plot holes, but at a certain point you just have to kind of roll with it. I will say that I’ve seen just one too many scenes where a character stares at a huge equation written across several chalkboards and says, “Oh my God, we’ve been looking at this all wrong!” Not even Jessica Chastain, who might be my favorite person on this planet, can make that not annoying for me.

But enough about the stuff I found silly. This movie is really incredible, and not just because it looks nice. Once we get into the NASA stuff, we’re in business. Michael Caine’s character is really interesting and subtly different from the types of characters he’s played in the last few Nolan movies. The scenes where he and the others explained the mission to McConaughey, though exposition-heavy, were somehow some of the most exciting in the whole movie. And once we’re in space, it’s just completely enthralling.

Side note: I remember hearing that people were mad about the scene in which Anne Hathaway talked about wanting to “follow her heart” and check out the planet that Dr. Edmunds, the guy she loved, had explored. They argued that having the woman be the one to advance this (supposedly) overly emotional viewpoint indicated that Nolan was in some way anti-feminist. I didn’t remember it well enough from the first time I watched it to evaluate it either way (though my default reaction to this kind of stuff is to agree that Men are terrible). On my second viewing, however, it seemed like she’s trying to make a scientific argument for the practical, logistical purpose of love in their situation, and that she’s not saying, “I heart Dr. Edmunds and I want to have like five thousand of his babies for both procreative and sexy reasons.” Added to which is the fact that she turns out to be EXACTLY RIGHT about how it all goes down. So in my view that gripe stems from what I think is a superficial reading of that scene. But maybe I'm wrong. (My only real problem with the scene was that Anne Hathaway was involved.) (Sorry.)

(Also, not for nothing, but nearly all of the Men in this movie were TERRIBLE. Matt Damon was supposed to be “the best of us” but turned out to be as awful as The Best of Me. Sneaky Michael Caine knew that Plan A wasn’t going to work out from the beginning, but convinced all these people, including his own daughter, to go on his suicide mission while he sat at home reciting that Dylan Thomas poem over and over again. He used Dylan Thomas for evil! The best male character in the movie was TARS, and he's not strictly a human being.)

The thing I was most interested in revisiting was the climax, in which McConaughey goes into the bookcase thing in the black hole and somehow saves the day. I remember being completely overwhelmed by this point the first time I saw it, and couldn’t really evaluate how I felt about the ending. (I also remember worrying that Chastain was going to physically drag him out from through the bookcase. That would've strained credulity a bit.) And while it’s a little ridiculous to think that Chastain makes these incredible leaps in logic because of the way her watch is ticking, and that she's then able to decipher those weird ticks into Morse code that somehow solves the crazy equation... you know what, it's not important. The movie had me completely hooked. I was thinking about all those huge essential questions and themes that Kristin mentioned earlier, and so I bought in.

Am I happy I took Kristin’s recommendation? Indeed I am. The movie is wildly, incomprehensibly entertaining, and it somehow pays off in a huge, emotionally satisfying way. Let’s put it this way: Interstellar is the best movie I have ever seen whose climax features a man trapped inside a five-dimensional bookcase located within a black hole who transmits quantum data procured by a sarcastic robot through time and space to his daughter’s watch by using gravity and Morse code.

SOME NERD: Actually the bookcase is a three-dimensional representation of the five-dimensional

Ughhhhhhh.

What’s next?

UPDATE: Third time's the charm for the great Buddy Wright, who recommends the 1991 Kenneth Branagh noir Dead Again.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

2. It Follows

The movie: It Follows (David Robert Mitchell, 2014)

Have I seen this movie before? No.

How I saw it: At the Georgetown movie theater. (If you want to see this movie knowing absolutely nothing about it, feel free to not read this post. I don't spoil anything, though.)

The recommender: Mark Bennett “Ben” Vipond

The rationale: I heard it was really scary, and I know you really like scary movies. That is a sarcastic remark. Ben is purportedly a close friend of mine.

My familiarity with this movie: I feel the same way about scary movies as Ben does about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: just, no. One of my favorite pastimes is reading the Wikipedia pages for scary movies that I know I will never watch. It allows me to make people think I’ve seen a lot of scary movies that I have not seen, which for whatever reason is important to me. But this is not a hard and fast rule, since there are so many different kinds of scary movies. For example, I’ve seen Halloween, and I liked it because it was more spooky than gross. And I’m given to believe that It Follows is similar to that movie, an old-fashioned creepy spookfest than one of these newfangled gross gorefests.

But it’s important to note that, despite this fact, and despite all the good reviews It Follows has gotten, I had absolutely no intention of seeing it until Ben recommended it to me. In fact, last week I read several pieces about the film (including this SPOILER-filled interview with its director) in the same spirit as my horror movie Wikipedia page consumption. And then not two days later, like a dang idiot, I started a blog for which people could literally make me see movies against my own will. SMGDH.

Pre-movie state of mind: Trying to hold it together. I am familiar with the plot of this movie, and a week ago I was familiar with how it ended. I don’t remember all the details of the spoilers contained in that post, though, so I’m coming in somewhat fresh. I’m also coming in with a pillow to block my face during the scary parts.

Plot summary and trailer yoinked from IMDb and YouTube, respectively: “For nineteen-year-old Jay, autumn should be about school, boys and weekends out at the lake. But after a seemingly innocent sexual encounter, she finds herself plagued by strange visions and the inescapable sense that someone, something, is following her. Faced with this burden, Jay and her friends must find a way to escape the horrors that seem to be only a few steps behind.”




What I thought of the movie: I couldn’t go see the movie with Ben on Thursday night (and Ben ended up not even going, which means that I’ve now seen this movie before he has, that jerk), so I saw this movie alone on Friday afternoon. Here is a picture that I took of myself in the bathroom as proof:


I sat in the very back row, far away from everyone else in the theater, so that I could use my phone to take notes during the movie. The phone was also my proverbial face-blocking pillow, and it definitely came in handy. We’ll get to it.

The thing is: the movie is really good. Just about every aspect of it is, at the very least, interesting. The acting is pretty solid, and the director has a strong visual style (the camerawork is very smooth, capturing the inherent creepiness of suburbia without drawing too much attention to itself). The score is simultaneously retro (with cheesy synths that are meant to evoke the music of the classic horror movies of the ‘70s and ‘80s, something that I am very familiar with thanks to my strong knowledge of the Wikipedia pages of the classic horror movies of the ‘70s and ‘80s). And the plot (with which I was already familiar, as you'll recall) works well too, functioning as a compelling narrative in and of itself while also featuring fun metaphors about STDs and how teens should Never Have Sex. (You can quibble with why the characters do certain things at certain times, but you can always do that.)

In general, I was very proud of how I handled myself during this movie. (A lot of you will point out that it’s very easy to watch a scary movie when you know what the plot is beforehand, and to those of you I say: who asked you?) Most of the time, I was neither uncomfortable nor terrified. The “monsters,” such as they are, generally walk toward our hero somewhat slowly, so usually I had enough time to be ready to look down at the phone and occasionally glance up to see what was going on. This worked pretty well for me. If all scary movies were like this one, I would do just fine. There was a general sense of dread that pervaded the entire movie, but it wasn’t all that much worse than the general sense of dread that pervades my daily life.

Except… OK, there were a few scenes that were a bit much, and I found myself typing away to keep myself occupied. Here is what I wrote, verbatim, during one such scene:

“Oh God oh God nope nope nope nope foh let’s play a game let’s see how many words I can make from the letters in the words It Follows: slow low flow lots its sit lift is the scary thing gone yet NOPE loft lofts soft woof. I am going to eat a grilled cheese later and it’s gonna be dope. Ben is a stupid jerk and I have honestly never liked him.”

I made it, though. Taste My Bravery.

Am I happy I took Ben’s recommendation? He’s on thin ice.

What’s next?

UPDATE: One half of the most successful couple in Jeopardy! history, Kristin Sausville, recommends Interstellar. Alright alright etc.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

1. Top Secret!

HUGE CLARIFICATION BEFORE WE START: I meant to make this clearer in my initial post, but I will be ONLY be taking the recommendation of the person who comments FIRST on each blog post. So I sincerely apologize to all those who commented after Joon, but I’m afraid your recommendations will go unheeded unless and until you get in first on this or a future post. We’re barely two posts in and I’ve already had to apologize twice. This blog is trash.

The movie: Top Secret! (Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, 1984)

Have I seen this movie before? No.

How I saw it: On DVD, via Netflix.

The recommender: Joon Pahk

The rationale: This is literally my favorite movie ever. I decided not to troll you this time. OH SWEET JOON.

My familiarity with this movie: The Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker team, heretofore abbreviated as ZAZ, are renowned for their zany, madcap brand of humor. They made Airplane! and The Naked Gun, both of which I love. (Between Airplane! and this movie, it’s clear that the ZAZ folks believe that the exclamation point is the zaniest of punctuation marks.) But somehow, this movie – released right in between those two – has never really been on my radar.

Perhaps relatedly, this is a Val Kilmer movie (apparently the first movie in which he ever starred), and, for whatever reason, I have seen shockingly few Val Kilmer movies: not Top Gun, not Willow, not The Doors, not Tombstone, not etc. My impression of the man is based almost entirely on a 2005 profile by Chuck Klosterman that describes a visit to Kilmer’s New Mexico ranch and paints him as something of a strange bird. It was from that piece that I learned that Kilmer is a Christian Scientist, and thus does not believe in taking medicine to treat illnesses. Christian Science is not a religion that is popular in the diabetic community.

Pre-movie state of mind: I’m excited about this. I’m a fan of the ZAZ lads. Also, Joon’s a funny dude, and if this is his favorite movie, I see no reason why I shouldn’t like it, too.

Plot summary and trailer yoinked from Netflix and YouTube, respectively: “Scheduled to perform in East Germany, an American pop idol is caught in international intrigue in this zany spy spoof from the creators of Airplane!. The singer falls in with the French Resistance, which plans to infiltrate the enemy via cow suit.” They had me at “cow suit.”


What I thought of the movie: It was delightful! These ZAZ folks really throw everything at the wall. High comedy, low comedy, sight gags, slapstick, wordplay, homage, everything. There is no genre of joke that is not attempted in this movie. It spoofs everything, most notably the Cold War spy film and the Elvis teen-heartthrob film. (To that end, the film contains a number of of awesome old-time rock 'n roll songs, including a Beach Boys parody about the combination of surfing and skeet shooting called "Skeet Surfin'," a title which is somehow ten times funnier today than it was when the movie came out. Skeet surfing! Imagine!) Ol' Christian Scientist Kilmer runs away with the movie, singing and dancing and playing the role with the intense conviction of man who knows that he will go straight to Hell if he takes so much as an aspirin.

As with Airplane!, I could sit here all day and list all the things that made me LOL in the movie. The important thing is that there were many of them, nearly all of them too ridiculous to even attempt to explain. And the fact that so many of them are minor, throwaway bits is, I think, what really draws folks to the ZAZ oeuvre. (My favorite throwaway bit was the Swedish bookstore – located in Germany, mind you – which prominently displays a book entitled Lesbian Bars of North Carolina.) The plot is, of course, a familiar trifle on which to hang all of the jokes, but even knowing every beat a few steps in advance didn’t affect my enjoyment of the movie in the slightest. Just a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. What a nice start to the blog.

Am I happy I took Joon’s recommendation? Yes. Look, I learned this lesson on the day the man beat me to a bloody pulp in front of several members of my family and a national television audience: Joon knows best.

What’s next?

UPDATE: OK so Ben Vipond commented: "Wanna come to It Follows with me tonight?" Now a) I'm busy tonight, so I can't go, and b) it's not STRICTLY a recommendation; it's more of an invitation. So I could declare this one null and void via technicality. But the only reason I would do that is because I don't like scary movies, and It Follows is supposed to be v scary. The spirit of the rules compel me to oblige, so I'll be seeing this movie of my own goddamn volition another time. SMH.